We’re hardwired to run away from wrongness. Inhibited by notions of practicality and expertise, we suppress the crackpot ideas and hare-brained schemes that, if only we allowed them room to grow, might expand into something magnificent. The people behind the work you’ll see in the Hayward Gallery’s ‘The Alternative Guide to the Universe’ have no such hang-ups. They pursue their odd enthusiasms with total commitment.
The show expands on definitions of outsider art to accommodate self-taught practitioners from the fields of maths, science and architecture. In doing so it starts to question what we mean by ‘inside’ and ‘outside’, establishment and fringe.
Some, like the inventor and engineer Karl Hans Janke, who spent 40 years sending designs for intergalactic craft to aerospace companies from an East German psychiatric hospital, conform to established ideas about institutionalised eccentrics. Others, like Eugene Von Bruechenhein – a Milwaukee baker by day, a creator of glamorous alter-egos for his wife by night – have, or had, fairly conventional jobs.
There’s a lesson here about how we should try to live without the fear of failure. Maths needn't add up to be amazing. Science fact shouldn’t stand in the way of marvellous fiction.
It takes a bit of work to tune into all the alternative worldviews on offer. But when you do, you’ll fall under the spell of these torn up rule books and start to feel empowered by the exhibition’s message. Dare to be wrong – brilliantly, beautifully, wrong. Let this liberating show be your guide.
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